Visual Storytelling Tips: Filmmaking for Beginners in 2021
The term visual storytelling may be relatively new, but the meaning behind this phrase is as old as the history of humankind. As early as cave paintings, people told stories about their everyday life – which mainly was hunting. With the development of science and art, real paintings appeared, then photography emerged, until finally, video making took over.
What is Visual Storytelling?
Visual storytelling has been described as the process of creating a work that is “entirely visual,” with no significant use of words. By its definition, a visual story is a story told mainly through the medium of visual art, typically with video and/or still photography. The story can also be told with audio and narration and enhanced by additional artwork, music, and voice.
Visual narrative (another term for storytelling) is a combination of techniques used to get the message across in any informative or entertaining genre: documentaries, narrative films, television, news, graphic novels, and more.
Obviously, visual storytelling is nothing without a good storyline. Generally speaking, your video is a journey from point A to point B, and everything in between falls into the most common plot scheme, known since Aristotle and Greek drama:
Many people also pay attention to details, and a well-thought script helps you avoid mismatched ends and factual mistakes.
Visuals are much more than a simple way to tell a story; they allow us to experience emotions, which makes the story more appealing to us. We believe stories that are realistic, evoke emotions, and make us feel things. An authentic story doesn’t have to be strictly factual but rather appeal to viewers’ past experiences and memories.
The connection between the audience and the story is the key to success. The ideas you convey in your film should resonate with people’s beliefs, hopes, dreams, and fears. When you establish this connection, your audience will become more involved in your narrative.
Visual storytelling involves the use of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste – yes, the last three too. We may not be in the same room as the characters, but thanks to neural connections in our brain, we can “smell” the air after the rain, “taste” a burnt toast, and “touch” a soft blanket. It is not meant literally, but subconsciously we know the feeling and can relate to it when shown on the screen.
How to Get Better at Storytelling
You can’t become a skilled professional overnight without practice. We will explore the seven top tips you can use to hone your visual storytelling skills and get better.
Know Your Audience
A good visual storyteller knows who is going to watch their story. There are different methods to learn what your target audience wants. The easiest ones include surveys, competition research, and analyzing the preferences of your potential viewers based on their age, gender, cultural background, and other factors.
Make the Story Arc Believable
When creating a narrative, it’s important to follow the standard screenwriting scheme mentioned above. Don’t forget to include moments of conflict or tension between the characters. This tension can help build an emotional connection with your audience, create anticipation, and compel viewers to pick up on the various clues you provide through visual storytelling.
Pay Attention to Colors and Lighting
Colors and lighting are arguably the most important components of visual narration. They create a specific atmosphere, set the tone for the whole movie, and affect the viewers’ mood. Choose a color palette for your video and think of what it implies. It should not necessarily be the same throughout the whole video. For example, it can change as your main character evolves, gets life experience, or is going through an emotional phase.
Pick the Right Music
The soundtrack can make or break your movie. Music also plays an extremely important part in videography. You can use it to emphasize the emotional state of your characters or, on the contrary, show discrepancies between what the characters say and what they think. In the professional world, soundtracks are usually written specifically for each movie. But for beginners, it will be easier to use royalty-free tracks to cut the costs.
Take Care of the Sound
If you want your video to have a voice-over, you’ll need to pay extra attention to the microphone you use to record it. The editing part is also important. Make sure you work with the audio’s volume – especially with loud noises like explosions and gunshots. Think of sound effects and how to record them in real life or create in a studio artificially.
Use a Handy App
Professional video editing software is not an absolute necessity. The more important thing is for it to be convenient for you and to have all the necessary tools. You can even rely on online services like Fastreel, Kapwing, or other video tools.
Hook From the First Seconds
This may sound hackneyed, but still, it remains true. You need to grasp the attention of your viewers right from the start. This is due to the attention span that is getting shorter and shorter. If people are not interested in your content from the very beginning, they just won’t watch it. It’s also important to keep the audience on the edge of their seats by introducing unexpected plot twists and maintaining the level of anticipation.
Stages of Visual Narration
The final product, be it a short movie, a documentary, or even a music video, undergoes several stages.
This is the very first stage where you think of your story in general. It includes writing a script, describing the characters, finding appropriate references, and planning the main conflict. Here, you need to also take into account themes and motifs you want to convey and do background research about the place, the era, and anything else you are writing about.
At this stage, you are bringing your ideas to life with the help of actors. Remember all the basic rules of composition (and occasionally break them) and take care of sound and lighting while shooting the video.
Finally, you get to the montage stage, where piece by piece, you put your story together. A stage where your shots acquire symbolism and imagery starts “speaking” to the audience. And after that – the most dreaded part – showing it to the public.
Wrapping Up – Visual Storytelling
Visual narratives are a wonderful way to get your audience engaged and invested in your content. With just a few well-placed images and enough descriptive words, you can engage your audience much more than you realize. If you can create visual stories that maintain a high level of interest, your audience will want to come back for more. This makes visual storytelling a great way to establish hype, create tension and build credibility.